20 under 40: Chad Kennedy

Chad Kennedy, a landscape architect at O’Dell Engineering, outside his office Friday, Aug. 5, in Modesto.
Chad Kennedy, a landscape architect at O’Dell Engineering, outside his office Friday, Aug. 5, in Modesto.

Favorite quote or saying, why?

I don’t really have a favorite.

Community or professional highlights:

I hold a master’s of landscape architecture from Utah State University. I’m a licensed landscape architect in California, an International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist, a NRPA certified playground safety inspector, a LEED AP BD+C professional, and am ESRI ArcView-certified. Since 2008 I have written and published a monthly newsletter, LAND Connections, which provides information related to landscape architecture fostering a greater understanding and collaboration between professions. To date, I have published more than 77 articles, all of which are available to the public. I have published in several trade magazines, both locally and nationally, and speak several times a year at schools and trade conferences at the local, state and national levels on a variety of industry topics.

I am an active member of the Modesto-area community. In 2009, I was appointed as the director of landscape architecture at O’Dell Engineering, and I was made an associate at the firm in 2013. In this role I have designed and overseen countless community improvement projects in the area including parks, playgrounds, trails, recreation facilities, residential developments, transportation systems and commercial landscapes. My design is focused on positively impacting the community through innovative, sustainable and inclusive design principles. As a local designer I commit myself to at least one pro-bono project each year as a way of giving back and saying “thank you” to the community. My fundamental strong work ethic, business accomplishments, passion for the industry, educational accomplishments, involvement in the community, public education efforts, dedication to faith and strong family values are core to my success in the region.

Your life changed when:

Perhaps the most pivotal and life-changing period of time in my life was meeting, courting, and ultimately marrying my wife of 16 years. I had personal drive, ambition and goals in life prior to her timely entrance on the scene, but they pale in comparison to the accomplishments I have made with her encouragement, support and wise counsel. She has consistently assisted in lifting my expectations and helped me realize that barriers in life are commonplace but completely navigable, and together we can determine the direction we head to avoid or transcend them. My life most certainly changed when she crossed my path.

What do you want people to know most about you?

I inherently believe true joy in life comes through quality time with loved ones. Through my journey as a father to three wonderful children, I have enjoyed spending time with them and have been fascinated with the evolution of their interactions and relationships with play environments. In my profession I am blessed with the opportunity to improve the world through design and implementation of outdoor spaces and through the creation of recreational, or play, opportunities such as parks, playgrounds and trails. My main focus in life is the happiness and well-being of my family. I am encouraged, however, by the fact that time spent away from them, devoted to church service, volunteer organizations and professional endeavors, offers potential for enhanced quality of life to many local residents, inclusive of my own family.

What do you like most about living here?

I am thankful to have an opportunity to raise my children in a community so richly supported by its citizens. For example, in my time assisting community residents over the years with their goals and projects (most recently the “The Awesome Spot,” a socially inclusive park in Modesto), I have witnessed true compassion, generosity and spirit from community members who rally around good causes and make them happen. Modesto offers economic opportunities and diversity similar to larger cities but with camaraderie and connectivity typical of a small town. Residents, myself included, can take great pride in this community, and I love being able to live in a place where I can see positive differences being made.

Why is community involvement important?

Without community involvement and compassionate people there would be no mechanism for positive change in the world. I believe positive change starts small. If every community focused on improving the quality of life for their citizens, one day and one project at a time, the world would undoubtedly become a better place. My desire to serve the community ultimately stems from a deeply rooted religious belief that selfless service, compassion and charity for others is necessary and ultimately a key component for a successful and happy community. As a strong advocate for the importance of recreational opportunities, I also believe a focus on healthy, social options in recreation is a critical building block for the development of a more involved, active and healthy community. Opportunities to aid in the improvement of our community through my professional and personal endeavors is something I treasure and actively encourage others to become involved in.

Age: 38

Occupation: Landscape Architect, O’Dell Engineering